Efoe Davis is a caseworker at World Relief Western Washington in our King County office, who regularly meets with individuals and families as they transition to their new life in the U.S. Here, he shares the joys and challenges of resettlement from his vantage point:
On December 20, 2021, I greeted a family of seven from Afghanistan: a mother, father, and five children. They had just arrived in the U.S., and I was their caseworker. After fleeing Afghanistan, they spent time on a U.S. military base as the lengthy paperwork was processed. They finally arrived in Washington and a new community, yet had experienced so much uncertainty, trauma, and waiting in the process. I see a lot of grief and pain in the people I work alongside.
Language and communication are just two elements that can be very challenging as a family resettles in the U.S. This family and I worked so hard to communicate about questions, concerns, tasks like grocery shopping, and how to navigate resources. One of the kids speaks some English, the rest only speak Dari, so we used interpreters when we could, and also lots of translation apps!
Another challenge for families when they first arrive is finding permanent housing, especially for larger families. How do you find a home before you have a job? How do you find a job without a permanent address? How do you find an affordable three-bedroom apartment in King County? These are the types of challenges people face when they arrive, and I get to help them navigate these questions as they work toward self-sufficiency.
When this family first arrived, they stayed in two different Airbnbs and a hotel before we found permanent housing last month. As a caseworker, I’ve been surprised and encouraged by how community members have been so supportive and kind. During this family’s stay at their first Airbnb, the owner frequently checked in on them to see if they needed anything. And when a snowstorm hit, she asked if they needed warmer clothes. With their resounding “yes,” she gathered some community support and helped them find the clothes they wanted.
Some of her neighbors got connected to World Relief after that, and are now supporting refugee resettlement through financial donations. Seeing how invested people are in this work reminds me that there are people in the world who have genuine hearts and are willing to do anything to help others in need. It felt like a spiritual connection to have this family at the Airbnb and to know that they (and I!) had the support of the community.
No Two Alike
Each case I work with is so unique. In my experience as a resettlement caseworker, I have seen a wide variety of families. Some are extremely easy-going, open-minded, and able to adapt quickly. Other families come with high expectations and very specific ideas of how they want things to go. But everyone arrives with some experiences of trauma and loss.
Sometimes, I receive praise and gratitude from people, and sometimes people yell at me or are verbally aggressive when things don’t go their way. People come with so many different experiences, personalities, histories, and expectations. I think part of my role is just to be with people as they are, and not force them into a box of how I think they should be or act.
As an immigrant myself, I understand the difficulties of resettling in a new place, especially when language is a barrier to progress or communication. I feel very grateful to help so many families coming here for the first time to find a home, a community, and a new and better life. I am also grateful for this community and the ways you have made resettlement just a little bit easier for these families.
– Efoe Davis, World Relief Caseworker